Vinson Hudson, president of the Jewson Enterprises consultancy in Austin, Texas, and proprietor of the POMIS database of the products, functions and capabilities of ambulatory care information systems, is offering free vendor selection consulting services to physician practices.

Of course, there is a catch, as Hudson expects to make money off the consulting, but it won't be the docs who pay. Rather, practice management and electronic health records vendors will be offered, for a fee, a customized report of "must have" and "nice to have" requirements, and other information that must be in their presentation to a physician practice that has three to five vendors on its finalist list.

Vendors will pay, Hudson reasons, because they're already spending a lot of money on marketing without really knowing who the customers will be. Now, he'll be presenting real customers who already see a particular vendor as a finalist. "That is a serious list because one of the three to five vendors will get the contract," he says.

Hudson has tested the new service with seven physician group practices and now has made the service commercially available. Here's how it works:

A practice can register for the free vendor selection consulting service at Hudson or another POMIS analyst will have an initial phone conversation with the practice followed by an in-depth meeting to understand and prioritize purchase requirements. The practice will be required to separate "must have" and "nice-to-have" requirements. The resulting document becomes vendor search parameters in the POMIS database, to which the practice will have unlimited access.

The analyst will work with the practice to eliminate vendors that do not fit the requirements, and the analyst may call or visit vendors to validate certain information. The practice will rank vendors based on its requirements and the analyst will discuss with the practice the basis for the rankings. The practice then will select its three to five finalist vendors.

Up to this point, the analyst will not know which vendors are being considered. "When you boil it down to three to five vendors, then you have to tell me who they are," Hudson says. "I can go to the vendors and tell them what's really needed to get that practice's business." He'll also ask the vendors for a negotiating discount on pricing.

If the finalists meet at least eight of nine predetermined "Essential Selection Criteria" that Hudson has developed, the analyst will contact each finalist to discuss details of the practice to gauge vendor interest. The analyst will not yet identify the practice without its permission. Vendors who wish to pursue the contract then are given practice profile information and its requirements, along with other details on items that must be included in their presentation and demonstration, along with the request for discounted pricing.

The analyst then will arrange meetings between the practice and finalist vendors. The analyst will work with paying vendors to customize their presentations and demonstrations for that particular practice, such as refining demos to show what the evaluation and management codes are, among other factors.

"So, the aim is to help practices get near the final decision using good requirements, and get the best deal you can from the vendor," Hudson says.

--Joseph Goedert


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